When It Comes to Racism, Americans Split on the Importance of Intent

Voters are split on whether a person’s intentions make their actions racist, but there’s more agreement that intent isn’t as important when assessing the effects of potentially racist laws.

A new ScottRasmussen.com national survey shows that 38% of voters believe an action is not racist as long as that was not the intent of the person carrying it out. But an almost equal number of respondents (37%) disagree, and 26% aren’t sure.

As is the case in many surveys about race, white and black voters differ on this issue. Forty-seven percent (47%) of black respondents say non-racist intent doesn’t stop an action from being racist. Only 33% of whites agree (see question wording and crosstab results).

But there is more agreement across the board when voters are asked about the effects of laws or practices.

Sixty-four percent (64%) of voters say it would be racist to continue supporting a law, regardless of its intent, if it is found to be specifically harmful to one specific group. On this issue, the majority of white and black respondents agree. Seventy-three percent (73%) of black voters say supporting such a law would be racist along with 61% of whites.

Even more agreement applies when voters are asked about individuals knowingly benefiting from discrimination. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of respondents overall consider that racist, with 60% of blacks and 58% of whites agreeing with that assessment.

The national survey of 1,000 Registered Voters was conducted August 23-24, 2018 by ScottRasmussen.com and HarrisX, a polling company specializing in online surveys (see Methodology). It has a 3.1 percentage point Margin of Error with a 95% level of confidence.

Data released earlier shows that 58% believe racism towards persons of color is a major problem in the U.S. today.

Additionally, 67%  are aware that black men are more likely to receive longer prison sentences than white men convicted of the same crimes. Voters are also keenly aware of other major problems with our prison system.

This awareness seems to have been at least part of the impetus behind rapper Kanye West’s recent visit to the White House to discuss prison reform with President Trump.

All data presented by ScottRasmussen.com is to enhance the public dialogue through data-driven analysis that explores the underlying currents of public opinion (read About Us). Receive the latest insights each day by signing up for Scott Rasmussen’s Morning Update

Neither Scott Rasmussen nor ScottRasmussen.com has any relationship with Rasmussen Reports® (see About Us).

Posted in Poll Results

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